The Sharks, the Red Wings, the Canucks and the Blackhawks are all out. We all saw that coming, right? Combine it with the Bruins' premature exit last night and the Rangers possible farewell today, and we've got ourselves an anomalous year sure to be talked about for a while.
(1) St. Louis Blues vs (7) Los Angeles Kings
Brandon: This is going to be the series to watch if you, like me, love pure hockey: strategy, defense and goaltending. I know other series may get more intense and emotional, but this is going to be fun the rest of us to watch. Kings in 6.
Josh: Two evenly matched teams. Kings have more high end talent and the more trustworthy goalie. Kings in 7.
Erin: This series features the cream of the 2011-12 defense and goaltending crop even if Jaroslav Halak isn't ready to go for the Blues. The Kings won the season series handily, and they came through with more than enough offense against the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks. But St. Louis, to me, has the better overall crop along the blue-line and the much better coach. Give me St. Louis in six, if only because I think Quick is good enough to steal multiple games.
Taylor: Two defensively sound groups go up against one another, and both have solid goaltending. The question is who can score more - and I don't think you score too many on Jonathan Quick. Kings in 6.
Brad: Their February and March match-ups featured a pair of 1-0 wins, one by each team. Logic says it will be that low scoring again, but you have to like the newly revamped (paid for) Los Angeles lineup to score more than they did in the regular season. So begrudgingly, disgustingly, give me Kings in 6. Quick is on a mission, and Dustin Brown will continue to be rewarded for his behavior disgracing the title of captain in the NHL, putting L.A. on the PP.
The Rinne's vs the Smith's after the jump...
("3") Phoenix Coyotes vs (4) Nashville Predators
Brandon: The Coyotes were outplayed by a tremendous margin by the Blackhawks and the only reason the Predators advanced was because of Pekka Rinne. Which overrated team's goaltender buckles first? Nashville in 6.
Josh: I don't know how well Nashville played in round one, but I know how outplayed Phoenix was by Chicago. Nashville in 5.
Erin: On paper, neither of these teams had a chance in their first round match-ups, but that's why they actually play the series. Both goalies have been stellar, a theme in this year's Western Conference. Nashville has the better blue line, but I like the forward defense from the Coyotes more. Like the Kings-Blues series, I think both teams will be happy with a 2-0 or 1-0 win each game. The Yotes won three of four in the regular season but all early. Still, I think their emotional bubble is riding higher than the Preds, who will be coming off a ridiculous layoff after ousting Detroit early. Phoenix in seven.
Taylor: This is the most intriguing match up to me, even if it won't produce a bushel of goals every game. I'm expecting the best goaltending dual between Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith seen in the playoffs yet. Neither franchise has much luck in the playoffs historically, so it will be interesting to see how these relative newbies do against one another. In the end, I think Phoenix has the emotions to carry them through the second round, but Nashville has a little bit more experience and Rinne wins the dual. Nashville in 7.
Brad: Phoenix has no business in round two if not for the charity of Corey Crawford. CHI grossly out-chanced them at times. Unless Mike Smith can also score a goal or two, I like the Preds here in 5 or 6 with their cheating addition of an All-Star after the trade deadline in Radulov.